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Computrols Design Department
Computrols design staff isn't simply comprised of Electronics Engineers, Software Engineers and Computer Scientists. Our technical staff also includes Graphic Artists, Technical Writers and Test Engineers. Our goal is to elevate the design process beyond chips and software and to capture the feeling of a truly simple and clean design.
Simpler, Clearer, and Easier
These philosophies are instilled in our designers and differentiate Computrols products as the best available.
All newcomers to the design team have to clock their hours in the field. Some engineers find this to be an enlightening experience while others grumble at the difficulties they find there. In this grumbling lies the stuff that makes truly great designers. We challenge our engineers, "Now, isn't there a better way? Let's build it."
This is the heart and soul of the Computrols business philosophy. Creating products that are:
- Simple to use
- Make perfect sense in the context of the application
- Flexible enough to handle unique situations
- Powerful enough to tackle the most difficult control tasks
Cutting Edge Technology – Continuing Innovation
The design staff at Computrols is recruited from the finest universities and companies, trained extensively and given the best tools available. They work closely with each other and with other departments to ensure quality and innovation. We encourage our engineers to use the latest technology available and leverage it for use in our products. Of course we keep up with trends in the Building Automation industry. But more importantly, we look for trends in the electronics sector in general and see how we can apply it to our industry.
For example, we were the first company to bring PC's to the Building Automation industry back in 1985. The ability to replace large, complex and expensive computers with small, inexpensive and simple computers was obvious to us. The rest of the building automation industry was slow in adopting this new technology.
Similarly, today we are convinced that the Internet network standard (TCP/IP) will dominate the building automation industry in just a few years. Not just in the computers at the front end of the system, but in every electronic controller throughout the building. All building controllers will share information on a common network throughout the building, and in turn, over a common network throughout the world. This global protocol standard will far surpass any current building automation industry standard in terms of acceptance, research dollars and performance.
Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
This commitment to technology continues for our design staff in the choice of components, software, platforms and protocols. As technology moves, we'll be there to use it.
Surface Mount Technology
Traditional electronic circuit boards use what is called "through-hole" technology. This is where leaded components are inserted into holes in a printed circuit board. It then passed through a wave solder machine where solder flowed up these holes and made the solid connections. Standard package sizes for through-hole components were made to reflect the current technology and to accommodate hand assembly.
The continuous need for smaller and denser printed circuit boards drove design engineers to develop a new technology called surface mount. In a surface mount circuit board, components are placed on the surface of the board. This eliminates the need for holes in the fiberglass and allows components to be placed faster and more accurately by pick and place machines.
Benefits of surface mount technology include:
- Reduced component size – components can be made two to five times smaller than conventional leaded components. In addition, some components are only available in a surface mount package due to their high pin count and to maintain a small body package.
- Increased circuit density – more complex designs can be achieved.
- Reduced board size – smaller components and greater circuit density allow for smaller circuit boards, lowering board-material costs.
- Reduced weight – decreased board and smaller component sizes translate to lighter, more compact circuits.
- Reduced manufacturing costs – use of automated pick and place machines increase production and yield more than conventional automatic insertion machines for leaded components. In addition, boards designed for surface mount do not require as much drilling.
Computrols realized early that it needed to adapt to this technology as soon as possible in order to keep ahead of its competitors. Computrols latest product line is made exclusively using surface mount components on its automated manufacturing line. Let's look into the manufacturing process that makes these quality products possible.
The first stage in our manufacturing process is the printing stage. The board enters the printing machine and stops at a pre-defined location. Once the camera validates that the board is good, it is pushed flush against a stencil. A metal blade rolls solder paste across the stencil and deposits the paste in the openings. These openings are aligned to the ‘land' pads on the circuit board. When the board comes out, the land pads are deposited with "bricks" of paste. The board is now ready for component placement.
The second stage of the process is component placement, commonly referred to as pick-and-place. This is accomplished using an automated pick-and-place machine(s). It consists of gantries, pick-and-place heads, component feeders and cameras for vision and inspection. Again, the board enters the machine and stops at a pre-defined position. The camera on the machine moves to coordinates on the board and checks for fiducials. Once these fiducials are recognized and accepted, the machine will know exactly where each component needs to go and will begin placement. The head consists of 12 rotary segments and nozzles of varying sizes. These nozzles pick up the appropriate components using pneumatic suction to hold the components in place. An internal camera takes pictures on the fly as the components are picked up. In a fraction of a second, the captured image is analyzed for size, tolerance and rotation. If all criteria are met, the component is placed; otherwise it is rejected via a collection bin. In placing a component, the head is delicate and careful to make sure the component is accurately placed onto the solder paste but not so hard that the paste is smeared. This process will continue until all components are placed on the board.
Temperature setting is very critical in this stage because having too much or too little heat will affect the outcome of the board. If heat is applied too high, there is a risk of thermal shock to sensitive components. In addition, too much heat too quickly will burn the flux out of the solder paste before the board enters the reflow zone resulting in cold solder joints, solder balls or splatters and outgassing. Conversely too little heat results in insufficient solder flow and grainy joints. The paste hasn't reached the desired reflow temperature to properly melt. Therefore, a heat profile is created for each product that applies the right amount of heat to the boards in just the right sequence. After the board has cooled the manufacturing process is complete, and it is off to the testing stations.